People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) protested in Jacksonville, Fla. by placing a rubber dog atop a fake grill.

The smell of freshly cut onions and bell peppers wafted in the air Wednesday near the intersection of North Laura and West Monroe streets.

Sitting atop a fake grill, the vegetables surrounded a rubber dog with a charred, hairless body. To some walking by, more than only the vegetables looked real.

Downtown workers walked by a sign that read, “If you wouldn’t eat a dog, why eat a pig?” and turned their heads. Some walked by shaking heads or with disgusted looks. A few walked by and shared support.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, organized the protest at lunchtime to demonstrate that if dogs or cats were treated the way pigs are in the meat industry, it would be illegal.

Amanda Brody, PETA assistant campaigner said, the realistic dog prop turns heads. The prop was first used in Australia before appearing in Jacksonville.

“People are shocked at first, but it does start this really important conversation as to why is it OK for us to eat pigs or cows or chickens or turkeys, but we’re not OK with eating a dog,” Brody said.

Brody said cows, pigs turkeys and chickens have minimal protections under the Animal Welfare Act because they are seen as commodities, while dogs and cats are not. She handed out vegan recipes and told those who walked by about the availability of vegan foods in grocery stores.

“When we get those reactions and people say it’s shocking, we just try to remind them of what actually does happen to real animals. This isn’t a real animal. This is a prop, and it gets people upset,” she said. “When we get those types of reactions, we remind people that there are animals suffering right now. It’s standard industry practice for piglets to have their tails, teeth and testicles cut out without painkillers.”

Jay Harris, 42, was driving to work when he saw the fake grilled dog from his car window. Harris drove around the block until he found a parking space.

“I walked over to be challenged, to be honest with you. Just to hear more, to get more information and make me ponder,” he said. “I feel like I love a good steak really a whole lot, and I don’t want to let go of it. And the only thing that will ever change that is me getting more information.”

Harris said the demonstration made him reconsider his views on how different animals are categorized after he recorded a video of the protest on his phone. His friend shouted out the car window at him and said, “I went vegan 20 minutes ago when I drove by,” with a laugh.

“It is a peculiar way to make a statement but nevertheless, it is a worthy statement indeed,” Harris said. “I’m not a vegan at all or whatever, but when I saw it I told my wife, ‘Man, I’m going to go over. They might make a vegan out of me or whatever because we have a barbecue dog sitting on the grill right now.’”

This story originally published to Jacksonville.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.